After a torrid warm water stretch with temperatures reaching 80 on several occasions in early – mid-August, water temperatures as of this writing are averaging a more normal 68 through most sections of the lake. Despite the warm water during that time, patterns remained typical, consistent, and catches were excellent especially for the most targeted species, walleye, and muskie. Only after the cool down, which one would expect to amp up fishing, did patterns change a bit. Not necessarily for the worse, just different from the norm as fish made movements more typical of approaching turnover time. Is it a sign of an early fall approaching? Think about it. We are already seeing some nature signs from wildlife, fish movements, and some early color changes.
Walleyes through mid-August were on a typical bite on reefs, humps, and deeper hard bottom areas at generally 25-35’ in main lake basins of Vermilion Bay, Portage, and Nash’s bay. As water temperatures cooled to more normal levels, the typical bite was still there, but big catch days required more moving around to find concentrations versus the rather stupidly easy bites of July and early August.
After the water-cooled, the best bite moved to large, shallower basin bays off the deeper main lake basins. These were places like Eldorado, Meridian, Portage, and even into the extreme south of Niven’s bays. It was generally much shallower at 16-25’ and even less, which is more typical of late September. The only reason they would do this is because of bait movements, namely shiners, perch, and bug hatches.
Instead of a good suspended trolling bite over deepwater basins, there is an excellent trolling bite going on in the evening, with Flicker Shads and small cranks in shallow, weedy and sand grass bays like Myers, Waldorf and I’m sure others at 7-10’ which I have never seen this time of the season in 25 years. Also, shallower breaks off grass flats and the mouths of bays 8-12’ tapering into 18-22’ which, again, is more typical of late September.
In the next several weeks, expect an excellent bite, but be prepared to search to find it, and don’t get caught in the rut of thinking that what was happening last season at the same time isn’t happening this year and the fish are just not biting. Simply, there are just too many walleyes of all year classes in the Eagle Lake system right now to not find a good bite someplace. It will stabilize into very predictable locations shortly; just be prepared to look a bit if needed, and what was good yesterday may need a relocation tomorrow. The fish are moving around a lot which tells us they are following baitfish movements/migrations specifically. Generally, it is a rig and jig bite right now, with jigs getting the nod over rigging, except for targeting bigger fish where large dace, small suckers, and snap jigging Kalin Flukes get the nod. On the shallow flats, try #5-7 Flicker Shads, ShadRaps, and Hornets. Because things are changing right now, we will be updating weekly through rest of the season to keep you informed for upcoming trips.
Big Pike have been active and these have not all come to deeper fishing walleye anglers, as is typical for this time of the season. Since the cooldown to normal temperatures, quite a few bigger pike 35-44” have also been showing up in weed beds and shallower rocks, surprising muskie fishermen casting blades or jerk baits, and thrilling people casting smaller spinners and buzz baits around for action-sized pike. There are always a few big rogue catches here and there, but what is going on typically isn’t seen much until the water cools below 60 into the 50’s. As we approach those temps in the next 2-3 weeks, the pike fishing should be stellar.
Though few target them, the lake trout fishing has been good for those giving it a try. Jigging white Kalin Flukes, Kastmasters, and trolling spoons with snap weights or riggers at 65-80’ has produced nice fish up to 25 pounds in recent weeks from the Eagle Lake Trout Holes and Portage Bay. Not many are targeting bass right now either, but it has been very good for those who have. Ron Barefield and John Stone are in camp this week as guest fishing instructors, and they are spending a lot of time targeting bass and tearing them up. Bays off the main basins of Gilberts Stretch, Portage Bay, and Nash’s Bay have been hot. Look for scattered weeds and rocks or logs at 5-8’ and use crawdad/perch cranks, jigs, and plastics. Ron and John have been enjoying 30-50 fish days with fish averaging 17” and up to 20”. There are also a few bass starting to show up on shallow humps, but they are mostly smaller fish at this point. That big movement is still a few weeks away and when it happens will be one of the best big bass bites of the season.
Muskie fishing was excellent from the June opener through mid-August, even during the heatwave. Since cool down, which I expected to make things jump a notch more, it got spotty. I would fish 5 spots and see nothing, and then on the next spot 2-3 muskies would come whistling in and want to bite or bite out at the beginning of the retrieve. Movements in clusters. You should definitely watch the moon phases and most fish over 48” have been coming during the last 15 minutes of legal time. Lots of nipping or slapping, not solid t-bone bites, so lots of fish barely hooked and then off. Stay alert, stick em’ hard, keep em’ down, and stay with em’.
I believe the cooldown was associated with big winds and the thermocline got washed up, thinned out, and warm temperatures mixed deeper, so shallow movements became more sporadic. The fish moved up on structures more towards dark and low light conditions while adjusting to the temperature change. In recent days, there have been signs of getting back to normal again. Rocks, both shallow and deep, are holding fish. Weeds are thick and green, and my best action and biggest fish from the last few trips have been over deeper structure or in the thickest jungle I can find. Most fish from shallow structures are coming straight up at the end of the retrieve, so they are holding off the break.
In the past three weeks, we have encountered some of the biggest fish of many seasons, some giants, megladons, and in the next few weeks leading into fall some, very special things could happen. Blades of all sizes have been the norm, though I’ve done best catching fish on smaller 8’s and 9’s in brighter varieties, moved fast; but some of the biggest fish have been seen on bigger blades in darker colors. At the same time, you can have a day where you have opportunities at fish on 5 different baits, including jerk baits; cranks; blades; rubber. The first bait through has definitely ruled, regardless of presentation. It does not seem any lake section is any better than another right now. Best advice right now is: fish hard, mix it up, stay concentrated, don’t give up ‘till the fat lady sings, and you’ll have pictures at the end of the week. The last couple weeks have been just a hiccup, and usually what follows is a great bite. With the fish movements already occurring and the nature signs, I think it’s going to be a great fall with lots of big fish.
If you are thinking of a fall trip, the best is yet to come. Fall is our time to show you your personal best. There are several openings the last 2 weeks of September, 1 opening for 2-6 the 3rd week of October, and 2 openings for the last week of October These are during peak times of our Ultimate Guided Fall Trophy Musky Hunt, when some of the biggest fish of the season are traditionally boated.